Thursday, June 16, 2011

What are dreams to the earthbound?

Sleeping baby birds in a nest in the grass, the mother having stepped out for groceries, can hold my imagination for hours on end. A nest of baby rabbits, the same. I do not touch them; they are not pets and I will not pretend they are. It comforts me to see people who care enough to learn about the wild things to rescue one from some illness or mishap and nurse it to health... then release it. It takes strength in a human to let go of things so wonderful that to want to possess them comes natural to us. In the actions of those generous, kind rescuers, I see endless hope for the planet as a whole.

With my own personal weirdness, I let my imagination run sometimes, inventing long and involved scenarios for our 'neighbors', yet I never forget that these creatures are not of my own ilk. And I take joy in their differences, their dark and light shadows of soul, the need to consume and their inevitable  track toward being consumed all one and the same. No picture is complete without light, or without dark. It's the colors that make it all worth living. Colors in a pallette more gorgeous than any human eye can imagine, at that. And so I wonder what it's like to travel at the level and speed of a honey bee, going about its business. I wonder what it's like to run beneath the waning moon on soft bobcat feet. Or to fly high, high, seeing vast expanses of the planet through the eyes of a hawk or owl. And yet, always, I remain earthbound myself.

I do not swim, nor fly, nor even dance. I can only plod along on feet imperfect for that job, sometimes borrowing four fine hooves and a willing heart to carry me a bit faster. Earthbound, with borrowed wings of a miraculous, scientifically impossible glory.

On the back of a horse, I can know, just for a short while, what dreams can be to the perpetually earthbound. I can see the landscape rush by, hear the drumming of hard hooves carrying a rider aloft. "Thou shalt fly without wings", the Qur'an says of the horse, and I believe it. I have been given the gift of earthbound wings. Not a hawk, nor a butterfly. Not a wolf, nor cat of any sort, can compare. Companionship in flight must be a mystery to so many people. People I can offer only frail words in explanation, words that do not come without a lump of painful joy, hard to speak of without tears as an offering to the earth that begot the gift and shared it.

I am no longer young. Yet in my heart, I haven't changed any from the youngster who gloried once upon a time in a pony that cost $25 USD to bring home from an auction that otherwise would have seen him end up in a can of dog food. A pony of 'broken' color, skewbald in his black and white lopsided clown suit, a pony of anything but classic conformation and eye: a rascal on the hoof, wearing a bushel basket full of useless winter hair on a late spring day, to reveal too-thin ribs and a quirky disposition. A pony, one of many equine souls I have, gratefully, known, whose memory keeps that youngster alive in a body becoming more and more familiar with age and the wearing of time.

It's odd. In my lifetime, I have been many things. Always searching, hoping that I'd find something to dig in and believe in. I've passed through jobs as commonplace as working in 'greasy spoon' fast food places, once in a double-unit drive-in movie theater in the concessions stand, I've been a groom on fancy bluegrass horse farms and on fairly ordinary ones, I've handled dairy cattle and helped from time to time a small-town veterinarian. I've done visual art, including painting and a little photography. And here I am, writing... no looking back allowed, no matter how much stress builds up. In a way, it's like half-nodding off at the evening milking in a dairy barn, only to have a rude awakening by a wet, smelly, crap-laden tail hit direct to the face. Why didn't I see this coming? The answer is only that I had waited too long to dream.

Of all the jobs I've loved, the ones involving horses have held my heart for a lifetime. I'm in Kentucky. There are horses here that are rare and little known by some. This is home to me, and those little surprises are what has kept me here. Mountains and mountain horses, people coming out of those hills in search of the same kind of work I did for years... it's like coming full circle widdershins. Backwards, or counterclockwise.

The greatest freedoms I can imagine involve a child, a horse of some sort, a book to enjoy, with woods and fields and water... and dreams. Earthbound dreams are fine things. From here, a dreamer can go anywhere at all.